As pet parents, we’re all just trying our best, and if you’re the mom or dad of an anxious dog, you know the struggle of getting your dog to focus on you during daily walks. The great outdoors are home to so many novel stimuli, which means your normally well-behaved pup has a plethora of opportunities to misbehave.
Of course, our dogs are just doing what comes naturally, and we never recommend punishing a dog who is a less-than-perfect walker. But we do like to keep a few tricks up our sleeve for when we need our pet’s full and undivided attention. For this simple hack, all you need is an empty dressing bottle and some delicious doggie goodies.
Why does my dog pull on the leash?
Do you look forward to your dog’s walk all day, only to be dragged by the leash once you actually hit the pavement? You may have a reactive, anxious, or just overenthusiastic pup. After many hours stuck inside while you work or run errands, your pet is likely going to have a lot of pent-up energy to expend. It’s no wonder that as soon as they get a taste of fresh air, all prior training can go out the window. Or maybe your dog has leash reactivity, that causes them to lunge or pull strongly on their leash to get at other dogs or people. This can be an embarrassing struggle to deal with, but it’s not fully your dog’s fault.
Often leash pulling is a learned behavior that can be remedied with some positive reinforcement and consistent training. That’s why turning your strolls into a fun, delicious game can be the best way to keep your dog’s eyes and ears attuned to you. In fact, offering tasty treats for their full attention will naturally encourage your pet to see you as their source of reward, which means they’re a whole lot more likely to listen to you when you really need it.
Recycle that old dressing bottle
If salad is regularly on your menu, you probably have a bottle or two of ranch or Italian in your fridge that’s nearly empty. Before you toss that dressing dispenser in the trash, give it a thorough scrub in your sink and let it fully dry. Preferably, you’ll want to go with the squeezable, plastic kind as opposed to inflexible glass bottles. Not only does this make dispensing easier, but the plastic is safer for on-the-go use. Once your bottle is fully clean, you now have a DIY treat receptacle. But what goes inside?
When you’re on the go with a rambunctious pup, the last thing you want to be scrambling with is tiny treats that leave a messy residue on your hand. With your DIY treat dispenser, you’ve got a mess-free delivery system to offer a variety of tasty wet treats to your pet. Here are some of our favorite combinations:
Unsweetened yogurt, thinned with water if needed
Applesauce, either homemade or unsweetened store-bought
Pureed meats without seasoning or marinades
Unsweetened oats, blended with water or milk
Your dog’s favorite canned wet food, thinned with water if needed
Peanut butter thinned with water
Remember to always consult with your veterinarian before feeding your dog any new foods, and be sure to stay away from any artificial sweeteners which can be toxic to pets.
How to use your DIY treat dispenser
On your next outing, try this fun exercise. Equip your DIY dressing bottle treat dispenser, fully loaded with your dog’s favorite food. Let your dog pull ahead or meander as they normally would. Now, try giving your dog a command, like “look” and if their attention turns to you, reward them with a squeeze of that delicious, good stuff. Keep this up, treating every time their attention turns to you after your chosen command. Soon, you should notice your dog’s attention will start to gravitate toward you as opposed to the distractions ahead.
You can take this a step further by teaching them “touch” and encouraging them to boop your open palm with their snout. For every boop, they get a squeeze of treats. For a fun game, let your dog sniff or lead you a little, and then throw in the command periodically, treating every time they break their focus and turn toward you to boop your palm.
The best part about this DIY treat dispenser is that it’s a one-handed hack – no more fussing with treat pouches, and no more messy hands! Even muzzled dogs can take treats easily using this method, which makes it easier to train them and less work for you. To clean, simply pop in the dishwasher or hand wash!
Don’t forget to always consult your vet ahead of time if you’re struggling with a training or behavioral issue. Your vet can offer anxiety-reducing tips, training how-to’s, and advice tailored to your specific pup. And if the unexpected does happen, pet insurance will help you worry less and get you back on the go.
Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.